Groundhog Shadow

It is Groundhog Day today.

If you have no idea what Groundhog Day is, you probably not alone. I admit, when I was still in the Philippines, I have no clue what is a groundhog. I know “ground,” and I know “hog,” but a groundhog? What on earth is that? And a day celebrating this creature?

When I came to America, I came to know what a groundhog is. I even came face to face with a groundhog. For he lives right underneath my porch! (See previous post)

Here is my neighbor groundhog, sunbathing in my porch. This photo was taken a couple of summers ago.


I guess you only care for Groundhog Day if you live in a country with wicked winter, and you’re growing tired of the bone-chilling cold and shoveling snow. According to tradition, during this day, when a groundhog peeps out of its burrow and emerges out, that means spring will come early. However if the groundhog sees his shadow and retreats back to his burrow, that means there is six more weeks of winter.

The largest Groundhog Day celebration is in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania where the famous resident groundhog named Punxsutawney Phil is watched by a large crowd as he emerges from his hole and predicts the coming of spring.

I woke up this morning and it was negative 6 degrees Fahrenheit outside. To say it is cold is an understatement. The weekend snowstorm just dumped more than a feet of snow in our area.


Groundhog Day sunrise

I know it is beautiful when you’re inside looking out on this ton of snow. But when you go outside and even drive on this, then that is a different story.


I had to drive on snow-covered unplowed streets early yesterday morning during the height of the storm, as I was on-call this past weekend. While driving to the hospital, I have noticed several cars stalled in the snow and in the ditch. Without the high ground clearance and all-wheel drive of my vehicle, I may have not made it to work. It pays to have a car that loves to play in the snow. Or you can opt for a reindeer-powered sled.

I heard one of the doctors in our hospital slipped into a ditch yesterday, and had to have her car towed out. She was alright, and made it to the hospital, albeit a little shaken and a lot late. It was such a hassle. I know. Been there, done that.

I even had a patient yesterday that I accepted for transfer to our ICU from an outlying local hospital, that on their way to our hospital, his ambulance fell into a ditch as well. But emergency responders came immediately and pulled the ambulance out of the snow bank. A rescue team rescuing a rescue squad, how about that! Needless to say, my patient made it to our ICU with no added injury to his already life threatening medical condition.

And so today, guess what groundhog Phil saw this morning? His shadow, of course! That means 6 more weeks of this crazy winter.

If I have my way, I’ll chase that nervous groundhog the hell out of his hole, that he will not even see his shadow.




Critter on my Porch

I knew for some time that there is a critter that lives underneath my porch. Sometimes I hear stomping in my front door. Sometimes it leaves its footprints on the snow. And sometimes I would have a glimpse of its fleeting shadow. I know it’s not an ‘dwende’, nor a ‘nuno sa punso’, nor a ‘kutong lupa’. I thought it might be a rabbit, or a possum, or a raccoon.

For so long my land co-inhabitant evades me, and I have not seen him face to face. Until now……

What is that creature? Is it an overgrown rat? Or a squirrel on steroids? No, it’s a groundhog!

Groundhog (scientific name: Marmota monax), also known as a woodchuck, belongs to the rodent family. So technically it is really a very big rat! It is a herbivore, or in other words, a vegetarian. Now we know who is eating our flowers and leaves, as he is probably turning my wife’s garden into a salad meal.

Groundhogs are excellent burrowers and can create an intricate tunnel system with two to five entrances, as a means to escape their predators. So I will not be surprised that underneath my house is an underground complex more labyrinthine than New York’s subway system. I just hope this critter would not undermine my house’ foundations, or else I’ll evict him. Or he’ll evict me first, by making my house crumble.

This creature is better known for the winter holiday that bears its name – Groundhog Day. This festival is celebrated on February 2 in the United States. According to folklore, when the groundhog emerges from its burrow and sees its shadow and retreats back to its hole, then that means the winter will last six more weeks. But if it sees no shadow  and leaves its burrow, then the winter-like weather will soon end.

The largest Groundhog Day celebration is held in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, where the most celebrated groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, resides.

But come this winter, I don’t have to ask the Pennsylvanian groundhog for its prediction of the winter season, I have my own woodchuck to query.

He better not see his shadow, or I’ll have him pay rent.